Pac-12 Completes the Comeback Circle

Mark Blaudschun

So it came to pass—or play. 

Power 5 Conference football will be an all-in affair.

Or at least the attempt will be made.

The official world came on Thursday afternoon when the Pac-12 presidents voted to lift the ban on all athletic activities for the remaining calendar year.

It was a reversal of the decision in August to suspend football and other sports because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What changed?

The party line is that there was more medical information available and that rapid response (same day) testing equipment was now available.

"From the beginning of this crisis, our focus has been on following the scientific data and counsel of our public health and infectious disease experts,'' said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

That sounds nice. And it provides an escape clause for reversing positions. 

But it avoids the main reason, which was the same one that prompted the Big Ten to dance the same dance a week ago.

Big Ten football will resume the last week in October. Pac-12 football will begin the first week n November.

The Big Ten wants to play a nine-game schedule. The Pac-12 is hoping for seven games.

There are no bye-weeks available for either conference.

This, of course, is if there are no game cancellations.

Now the Power 5 conferences—Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big 12–are all on the same playing stage, which means that all can compete for the payouts and prestige of the CFB playoffs which are scheduled to be held in January.

This was then and remains a MONEY issue.  

College football is being played this fall not because of tradition or history. There are no or only minimal crowds, no game-day atmosphere. 

Seasons have been truncated and will continue to be for the remainder of the season. The entire sport is one spiking in the COVID-numbers away from major shutdowns on campuses.

The Pac-12 has had other issues, wild fires in California, Colorado and Oregon, stringent state rules preventing teams from even the most minimal of practice times.

But while the other Power 5 conferences moved forward, the Pac-12 and Big Ten hit the pause button.

In many ways it was a wise decision, with the best of intentions. The Big 10 mishandled the way it conveyed that message, losing total control. 

The Pac-12 was fine, until the Big Ten reversed itself, but there was one  factor that is even stronger than COVID-19. 

The power of money. The fear of lost revenue. 

What the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have done is what they should have done six weeks ago. 

Make the effort, until the last possible moment when a decision had to be made.

The SEC chose to follow that route and will begin its season on Saturday.

There are still no guarantees this will play itself out to a conclusion in January.

But now, at least, everyone is participating. 

Whether they are able to do that with a full slate of games is next month's crisis management moment.

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Mark Blaudschun

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